Ontario Protecting the Most Vulnerable During COVID-19 Crisis

Ontario government announces new funding that will support food banks, homeless shelters and individuals. 

The Ontario government is providing $200 million in social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of the province's most vulnerable people in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The province will be providing municipalities and organizations that administer social services with funding to support them in their response to COVID-19. The funding will help municipalities and social service providers such as shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy. Ontario's municipal service managers will determine local needs and distribute the funding, ensuring clients are receiving the support they need.

 "Our government will spare no expense to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians," said Premier Doug Ford. "We are doing our part to show the Ontario spirit and we will make sure no one gets left behind. Organizations across the province are doing critical work right now to help vulnerable Ontarians and these funds will allow them to directly help those who need it most." 

The funding will also help individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs. The government is putting in place an expanded Emergency Assistance program administered through Ontario Works (OW) to cover these individuals' needs such as food, rent, informal childcare, and services. There will also be discretionary benefits available to those who already receive social assistance.

This new funding will help individuals and families in financial crisis who are not able to access federal assistance to cover needs such as food, rent, medicine, transportation and other services during this public health crisis. Funding will also be made available to organizations delivering social services to vulnerable First Nations individuals and families. Individuals can apply online at Ontario.ca/community.

"Protecting our most vulnerable is an absolute priority, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop," said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. "We're expanding access to temporary emergency assistance so that individuals who have no other means of financial support can stay safe and healthy."

This fund will also help local communities support their shelter systems during this health crisis. The province's 47 municipal service managers will deliver this funding, ensuring clients are receiving the support they need, and will make local decisions on community funding.

"We are acting quickly to support those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless during this unprecedented time," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "This funding will go straight to communities, who know best what the immediate needs are on the ground in their local shelters."

"This new funding will provide much needed support to our province's most vulnerable as we continue to take decisive action to contain the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "If Ontario is going to successfully flatten the curve, it's vital that we ensure that all Ontarians have the resources they need to protect their health and well-being."


  • Last week, Ontario announced a $304 million investment in COVID-19 response, including $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth.
  • To further bolster safety measures for social-assistance clients and caseworkers, the government has also temporarily removed the requirement for clients to provide written documentation at this time. Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments will be made as usual and will continue based on previous levels of income support. Individuals will not have to visit their local office to provide written documentation during this time. If individuals need to connect with their caseworker, they are encouraged to connect over the phone instead of visiting in person.

Background Information

Changes to Ontario's Emergency Assistance Program in Response to COVID-19

Vulnerable Ontarians, including those who live in poverty, are homeless or unemployed, face even more significant impacts as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ontario is providing $200 million in social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of these vulnerable populations.

Emergency Assistance

Ontario's investment will provide additional resources directly to individuals and families in financial crisis. This includes those who are not able to access federal assistance to cover needs such as food costs, rent, medicine and other essential services during this time.

Ontario is expanding access to existing Emergency Assistance under the current provisions of Ontario Works. This is available to people with limited income, assets or credit who are in a crisis or an emergency situation.

Ontario is providing additional resources and expanding access to Emergency Assistance for those facing a COVID-19 related financial emergency by:

  • Suspending the rule that limits emergencyassistance provision to only once in a six-month period for individuals and families affected by COVID-19; and
  • Allowing people to receive emergency assistance for longer (48 days) without submitting a full Ontario Works application.

Those who are already on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), tourists and visitors are not eligible. Individuals can apply for this assistance online at Ontario.ca/community or through local Ontario Works offices. 

Support for Current Social Assistance Clients

The government is making additional resources available to enable Ontario Works administrators to provide discretionary benefits to those currently in receipt of social assistance. This funding can be used to meet a broad range of needs ― including cleaning supplies, transportation, food or clothing ― that individuals and families may be experiencing due to COVID-19.

Individuals can access benefits through the Ontario Works program through online applications such as MyBenefits, contacting their Ontario Works caseworker or online at Ontario.ca/community. ODSP recipients are also eligible to receive these benefits and can contact their ODSP caseworker for additional information.

Support of Workplace Health and Safety

To protect the health and safety of frontline staff and clients, and to limit the spread of the virus, the ministry is modifying certain social assistance program requirements on a temporary basis, and is:

  • Reducing the need for in-person contact by authorizing risk-based approaches to eligibility determination and other verification requirements, including deferral of visual verification requirements of original documents and allowing for the use of email or alternative methods to submit reports or documents. This documentation may be requested at a later date.
  • Helping to reduce the burden on program staff by modifying certain program requirements - including no longer suspending clients who do not report income and suspending Eligibility Verification Process reviews - to enable deployment of resources to priority activities.
  • Helping to reduce the burden on the health care system by enabling program staff to approve extensions to Special Diet Allowance, Mandatory Special Necessities benefits and medical transportation/supplies without endorsement from a health professional.

Municipal and Service Delivery Partners

In addition to families and individuals, municipalities and other organizations that provide social services will be eligible to receive this funding to support their response to COVID-19. Shelters, food banks, charities and non-profits will have immediate access to flexible funding to help them cope with growing demands and extraordinary circumstances.

Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSAABs) will be responsible for allocating funding, based on local priorities. Funding will also be made available to organizations delivering services to vulnerable First Nations individuals and families. Further details will be available shortly.

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